The Surprising Connection Between Mental Health and Heart Disease

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The Surprising Connection Between Mental Health and Heart Disease

January 2, 2015 Mental Health

It’s perfectly normal to feel sad, upset, worried and generally troubled after having a heart attack or finding out you have heart disease. This is a major, life-altering diagnosis and you should be a little shaken up and concerned about your future. If you can’t shake that bad feeling or if your symptoms of worry and sadness get worse, you could be struggling with depression or an anxiety disorder. It is not uncommon for depression, anxiety and heart disease to go hand in hand.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

It comes as no surprise to hear that high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, smoking and an unhealthy diet are all risk factors for heart disease. But did you know that depression is also a risk factor? By itself, depression is a risk factor for heart disease, but it is also linked to the other risk factors. Someone who struggles with depression is more likely to smoke or eat a poor diet, for instance. There has been less research into the connection between anxiety and heart disease, but studies have shown it is also a risk factor.

Depression and Anxiety After Heart Disease

We know that these mental health issues can be risk factors for heart disease, so it seems natural that they can co-occur with any form of heart disease. It is also not uncommon for someone to struggle with anxiety or depression after having a heart attack, even if it wasn’t a problem prior to the incident. It turns out that women suffer more than men in terms of depression and anxiety after a heart attack. With heart disease being the number one cause of death for women in the U.S., this is an important fact to recognize.

It is crucial that you recognize and get treatment for depression or feelings of anxiety after an incident of heart disease or after getting a diagnosis. Depression has a negative impact on recovery from a heart attack and can be a risk factor for another heart incident. Research also shows that people struggling with depression are less likely to take their medication.

Good Post-Heart Attack Mental Health

If you have had a heart attack, be aware of your feelings and talk to someone if your feelings of sadness or anxiety persist for more than a couple of weeks. Treatment is available for both depression and anxiety disorders and it is effective. Therapy and medication can help you feel better, which will also improve your physical symptoms. It’s also important that you listen to what your loved ones tell you. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the signs of depression in yourself. They can tell you if you just aren’t acting like yourself.

In addition to getting professional help, there are other things you can do to feel better after having a heart attack. Work with your doctor to make sure you are doing everything right for your physical recovery, such as taking your medication and eating well. Be active and get exercise, within any limits set by your doctor, of course. Spend time with friends and family to socialize. Being around people can be an important boost. Manage your stress by taking it easy for a while and taking time to do things you find enjoyable and relaxing.

Mental health and physical health are intertwined, as the link between depression, anxiety and heart disease illustrates so clearly. To be well you must take care of both your body and your mind. Take any signs of depression or an anxiety disorder seriously and talk to your doctor about your options for diagnosis and treatment.

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